You’d be hard-pressed to find Catholics who haven’t heard of St. Therese of Lisieux or St. Catherine of Siena or St. Francis of Assisi or some of the other ever-popular saints. But sometimes it’s good to befriend lesser-known saints- they can become special friends and intercessors for us, leading us closer to God with an almost individualized attention. Here are six cool saints to get to know.
St. Casimir of Poland
St. Casimir was the third of thirteen children born to King Casimir IV and Elizabeth of Austria. From a young age he knew he wanted to devote his life to God and displayed great holiness. His father once ordered him to lead an army against Hungary and, though he opposed it, out of obedience, he went. But when soldiers starts deserting along the way, he was all too happy to turn back. Furious with him, Casimir’s father banished him to the castle of Dzoki. While there, King Casimir IV tried to arrange a few different marriages for Casimir, but Casimir refused each one (which is why he’s honored as a patron saint of bachelors!). St. Casimir died of lung disease at the age of 23 while visiting Lithuania and was buried with his favorite hymn to Mary. He is invoked as the patron saint of both Poland and Lithuania.
St. Alexis of Rome
St. Alexis was the son of a rich Roman senator and his wife who were very charitable Christians and taught Alexis to take care of the poor. From an early age, Alexis wished to renounce all of his wealth but his parents had chosen a wife for him; out of obedience, he obliged them. However, on Alexis’s wedding day, he obtained permission from his bride to leave her and he then fled, in disguise, to Syria where he lived as a beggar and taught children about God. Almost 20 years later, he returned to Rome and went as a beggar to his parents’ house. They did not recognize him! He lived in a corner under their stairs for 17 more years, only going out to go to church or to teach small children. The servants were very mean to him but he endured it all and never told his parents who he really was, even though that would’ve ended his suffering. Instead, he gave all to God. When he died, his parents found a note on his body telling who he was and how he had lived his life in penance from the day. of his wedding all for love of God. St. Alexis is venerated as the patron saint of beggars.
St. Rose Philippine Duchesne
Though St. Rose was born in France and joined the Society of the Sacred Heart, at age 49, she was sent to the United States. Once there, she founded a school for the daughters of pioneers near St. Louis and also opened the first free school west of the Missouri. When she was 71, she started a school for Indians, which she had always wanted to do, and became known to them as the woman who was always praying. St. Rose is also remembered for her great courage and tenacity in the face of frontier conditions.
St. Nonna was raised as a Christian but ended up marrying Gregory, who was part of a Jewish-pagan sect. Through her many prayers, Gregory eventually converted to Christianity and is venerated now as a saint! Nonna and Gregory raised three children: Gregory, who became bishop of Nazianzus and is now recognized as a Doctor of the Church, Gorgonia, and Caesarius, who all also became saints. Nonna raised one of the most holy families in history! She outlived her children Gorgonia and Caesarius and also her husband, but still remained dedicated to caring for widows, orphans, and the poor. Her son, St. Gregory Nazianzen, said of her, “While some women excel in the management of their households and others in piety—for it is difficult to achieve both—she nevertheless surpassed all in both, because she was pre-eminent in each and because she alone combined the two. She increased the resources of her household by her care and practical foresight according to the standards and norms laid down by Solomon for the valiant woman. She devoted herself to God and divine things as though she were completely removed from household cares. In no way, however, did she neglect one duty in fulfilling the other; rather, she performed both more effectively by making one support the other.” St. Nonna died a few months after her husband while at church participating in the Divine Liturgy.
St. Margaret of Antioch
According to legend, while imprisoned for being a Christian, St. Margaret was visited by the devil in the guise of a dragon. The dragon swallowed Margaret but the cross she carried on her body irritated the stomach of the dragon so much that she was able to cut her way out of it from the inside! Attempts to kill her were made by fire and drowning but she was miraculously saved each time and thousands of spectators converted. She was finally beheaded. St. Margaret of Antioch is one of the saints who spoke to St. Joan of Arc in her visions and is the patroness of childbirth.
St. Brice of Tours
St. Brice was an orphan who was raised by St. Martin of Tours. Although Brice was vain, overly ambitious, and rather volatile, St. Martin was patient with him. Eventually, Brice repented of his ways and succeeded Martin as bishop of Tours. However, once he was bishop, Brice returned to his old ways and became very worldly again. Brice was exiled to Rome and, in the seven years he spent there, he repented and completely changed his lifestyle. St. Brice eventually was reinstated as Bishop of Tours and ruled with such humility and holiness that he was being venerated as a saint before he had even died!
St. Zoe of Rome
St. Zoe was married to Nicostratus, who was a high-ranking Roman court official. For six years, she had been unable to speak until St. Sebastian made the sign of the cross over her and then she immediately began speaking and praising the Lord. It was then that both Zoe and Nicostratus asked for baptism. However, she lived at the early persecution of Christians under Emperor Diocletian. While praying at the tomb of St. Peter, to whom she had a particular devotion, one day, she was arrested for her faith. Zoe was then hung by her hair from a tree over a fire and died from smoke inhalation. Her body was thrown into the Tiber River.
St. Gaspar del Bufalo
St. Gaspar was ordained a priest in 1808 and then shortly after, was expelled by Napoleon with most of the rest of the clergy in Rome. After five years, Gaspar was able to return and found much work to be done, as Rome had been without priests or sacraments for that long. He founded the Congregation of the Most Precious Blood and he wished to have a house in every diocese and would choose the most debased town to set up in. He eventually set up six houses in Naples, which was a veritable hot bed of crime in those days, though he was met with obstacles for sometime. Gaspar preached his last mission in Rome during the cholera outbreak and, feeling his body weakening, went quickly back to the mission house in Albano. He went back to Rome to die after the feast of St. Francis Xavier (December 3) and received his last sacraments on December 28, 1837, and died the same day.